Monday, December 17, 2012
Best/worst in 2012: Ole Miss
By Edward Aschoff
Our look at the best and worst moments of the year for all 14 SEC teams continues with the Ole Miss Rebels:
When Ole Miss beat Auburn on Oct. 13, the Rebels snapped a 14-game SEC losing streak. It was one of the best moments in more than two years for Ole Miss, but the best of the best came at the end of the season, when the Rebels blew archrival Mississippi State out of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with a 41-24 win. It was Ole Miss' first win over the Bulldogs since 2008 and it officially made the Rebels bowl eligible for the first time since 2009. Any sort of win against Mississippi State to bring the Golden Egg back to Oxford would have sufficed, but to dominate the game was even better for a team that had fallen on very hard times in the past two years. Headlined by a monster game by sophomore Donte Moncrief, the Rebels rolled up 527 yards of offense and outscored the Bulldogs 34-10 after trailing 14-7 after the first quarter. Moncrief caught seven passes for a career-high 173 yards and three touchdowns, while quarterback Bo Wallace threw for 294 yards and five touchdowns. It was easily the biggest win of the year for the Rebels and first-year coach Hugh Freeze.
The second half wasn't so kind to the Rebels during a few games this season. First, there was the three-point loss to Texas A&M at home after leading the Aggies by 10 in the fourth. Then, Ole Miss blew a 23-6 third-quarter lead to lose to Vanderbilt 27-26 in Oxford. The loss to the Aggies hurt, but wasting that 17-point lead to the Commodores was heartbreaking for the Rebels. If Ole Miss had won that game, the Rebels would have been bowl eligible weeks before taking on Mississippi State. Instead, Freeze painfully watched as his defense slipped away in the final two quarters. It started with a 52-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Rodgers to Jordan Matthews early in the third. The Commodores then cut Ole Miss' lead to just three points with an 11-play, 51-yard touchdown drive. Vandy put the game away with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Chris Boyd with a little less than three minutes remaining. The loss put the Rebels' bowl hopes in real question with LSU and Mississippi State remaining on the schedule.